Contractor Blues

So, we are nearly finished redoing the kitchen and ground floor of our house. The remaining issue — the TV hookup — is going to require a visit from the cable guy tomorrow morning. In the past 24 hours, I have learned volumes about the exciting world of HDMI cables. I’ll add that to the vast amount of arcane information that I’ve picked up in the past six months.

Because when I am about to spend a shitload of money, I do what I do best — I research the hell out of it.

Yes, we spent all the moneys on this renovation, but I still did it tens of thousands of dollars cheaper than other families in town. First, I came up with the perfect design for the room by going to five or six different kitchen designers and stealing their ideas. I pinned hundreds of pictures in Pinterest and watching hours of HGTV.  Then, I found a cabinet wholesaler to get me the right price, and I had him redesign the plans three times until it worked perfectly.

Then, I found a contractor who wasn’t a darling of the rich families in this town. Rich the Contractor was cheaper than the town groupies, but working with him required me to do a lot of supervision of the subcontractors. Rich did a great job with the woodwork and installing the cabinets, but everybody else — the plumbers, electrician, tile guy, sheet rockers, floor guy, fireplace guy, painter, architect — needed oversight and sometimes, I had to pay them separately, because the contractor didn’t want any liability for their work.

I could probably run any kitchen renovation in any home right now. I just got a PhD in kitchen repairs. I briefly thought about going into the home flipping business with Rich the Contractor, because I don’t suck at this. He was hinting at it, but that’s not my path.

And Rich the Contractor is thinking about moving into home flipping, because his job is ending. My guess is that our kitchen is his last job. His best worker left last week, when he was scooped by a big corporation that could pay him ten dollars more per hour and give him benefits. Rich can’t find anyone to replace him.

His business is barely profitable. Rich spends $24,000 per year on health insurance for himself, his wife, and his two 20-something kids. He can’t compete with the guys who get their health insurance through their wives or go without. He insists on following the letter of the law for everything, so he pays tons for workplace insurance, workman’s comp, social security. He gets inspections and follows local codes. He hires other guys like himself — middle aged, white guys who live in the area — to do the subcontracting work.

When it came time to do the painting, Rich recommended one of those middle-aged, white guys from the area. His quote was a $1,000 more than the Latino from Newark. Carlos and his friends did a fabulous job and were in and out of here in a day.

Like the contractor from Murphy Brown who never left, Rich has been here for two months. Whenever I needed a break from work, I would go upstairs and pick a fight with him about politics. He’s a Trump voter, so there was lots of fodder. In fact, Rich gave me a question or two to ask the high profile subject that I interviewed last month.

On top of losing his career due to competition from big corporations, more agile immigrant businesses, and his aging knees, his kids are struggling. One is doing okay at a local state college getting a degree in communication. He says that she’ll find a job. But his son, who wanted to be a cop, can’t find a job without having a family connection in the business, so he’s waiting tables and living at home.

Rich is ticked off about a lot of things, so he wasn’t really able to sort out how he can’t be upset at the high costs of health insurance on the one hand and then resist efforts to reform the system on the other. You don’t have to go to West Virginia or Kansas to meet people who aren’t thriving in the new economy.

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48 thoughts on “Contractor Blues

  1. If the kid went to college, he can try to be a cop in Pittsburgh. The starting salary is in the low $40s. It’s not great pay for a hard job, but that’s a livable wage here and I think you get over $50,000 pretty quickly if you stay.

  2. Arlington is having trouble keeping cops. We pay 53000 to start: https://police.arlingtonva.us/jobs/entry-level/ and we are losing people regularly to nearby jurisdictions which pay better. On the other hand, you need to be willing to pay Northern Virginia rents, which are kind of breathtaking. Sixty semester hours or ninety quarter hours of college. And you are a long way from family in Jersey.
    There’s a lot for Rich to be angered about, and Trump and company did a masterful job of salting the wounds. Hillary did a lot wrong, but among those things the disdain she displayed for the deplorables certainly did her a lot of harm.

  3. More: Chozick said Hillary had made the ‘deplorables’ remark a number of times, and only understood that it was a problem after it went headline. AND it had been a popular remark among the chattering-class members to whom she had made it: “That was no slip of the tongue, since “Hillary always broke down Trump supporters into three baskets,” Chozick writes.

    “Basket #1: The Republicans who hated her and would vote Republican no matter who the nominee.

    Basket #2: Voters whose jobs and livelihoods had disappeared, or as Hillary said, ‘who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens in their lives and their futures.’

    Basket #3: The Deplorables. This basket includes ‘the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it.’”

    Sounds like Rich is a Basket 2 voter, and he is not wrong to feel as he does.

    1. I think there’s a fourth category (unackowledged by Hillary, or wrongly considered as part of Basket 3). Most of the Trump voters I know are upper blue collar (construction workers, legal secretaries, nurses, etc.). They’re doing as well as anyone economically, but they chafe under the perceived contempt of the chattering classes. FDR (“Fellow immigrants”) managed to convey that he didn’t take his blue blood status very seriously. Barack, Hillary, and their meritocratic comrades are incapable of conveying that they don’t consider themselves better than others on account of their Ivy League degrees.

  4. Y81, I think you have it right. And it’s not just ‘perceived contempt’, it’s real contempt. We’ve seen it even here from commenters in Laura’s Pixel Patch and Levendee CoProsperity Sphere. I’m not sure how we get out of this as a country – one gains social status in chattering-class gatherings by demonstrating contempt for the Trumpistas, the mirror is true too. The left sites I’ve seen attribute the vilest of motives to the right.

  5. It is entirely true that I have contempt for those who engage “racist, homophobic, sexist, islamophobic xenophobic” behavior and those who are willing to sit alongside of them.

    I do not, however, have any contempt whatsoever for tradesmen, electricians, plumbers, house cleaners, construction workers, fisherman, police, firefighters, service workers, baristas, waiters, . . ., or any other worker who doesn’t have a standard college degree, unless they are also acting as biased bigots.

    Unfortunately, the events of the year + following the election of Trump have pretty firmly reinforced the view that anyone who voted for him is sitting alongside bigots, and, thus, yes, my political plan is to work towards the time when they are no longer a majority. I see no way of bringing them to the table where we address the issues faced by those who are being left behind in our winner take all society as long as they remain attached to the policies, choices, character, behavior, and crassness fo the current president.

    1. bj said,

      “Unfortunately, the events of the year + following the election of Trump have pretty firmly reinforced the view that anyone who voted for him is sitting alongside bigots, and, thus, yes, my political plan is to work towards the time when they are no longer a majority.”

      Trump’s approval rating is currently at something like 40.3% (which is actually kind of high for him–he’s dipped below 37% at times).

      https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/

      Meanwhile, Trump got 45.9% of the vote in Nov. 2016.

      https://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/president

      Also, Trump’s approval among his base is pretty soft:

      http://www.newsweek.com/trump-base-republicans-approval-rating-785412

      “President Donald Trump lost much of his political base and dragged the Republican Party down with him throughout his first year in office, according to new poll results released Friday.

      “One day before the anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, his approval rating sits at 32 percent, with 55 percent disapproving of his work in office and 12 percent neutral, according to the joint University of Southern California-Dornsife College/Los Angeles Times national poll.”

      32%–oh my gosh!

      “Among other national polls, Republicans have largely shown great support for Trump despite his many controversies. But only 40 percent of GOP voters strongly approved of his work, with 35 percent somewhat approving. Six percent of Republicans strongly disapproved, and 10 percent somewhat approved. Nine percent were neutral.”

      (I think there must be a typo with the 10% “somewhat approved”–that probably ought to be “somewhat disapproved.”)

      What this means is that a) it doesn’t make sense to assume that being a Trump voter in Nov. 16 is synonymous with being enthusiastic about Trump now and b) announcing that you will hold a Trump vote against somebody to the end of time is very, very unwise.

      And I said that as somebody who didn’t vote for Trump, never even entertained the possibility of voting for Trump, and wouldn’t vote for him unless he was running against Zombie Hitler (or equivalent).

      1. Republicans who are not in support of bigoted behavior keep hoping that Trump is an aberration, and kept hoping, all through the primaries and through the election and through the term of the presidency that other’s who are voting for the Republicans will, are, might come to their senses.

        I do not think the approval ratings support that point of view — and, indeed, your statistic above 75% of Republicans are supportive of Trump, which, well, at the very least, does not suggest disapproval.

      2. One thing I have noticed about the right-wing media, which gets replicated here sometimes, is the sense that conservatives are under attack. They are constantly told that liberals are attacking them and their way of life, and so right-wing media viewers measure their pleasure by whether or not liberals are upset by Trump’s actions. If it makes liberals angry, it’s worth it. I’ve come to believe that this is the core of the rot in society.

      3. Yes. “I’m angry at you and therefore it is your job to calm me down” is one of the things that really makes me angry. Which, I guess, means it works even better.

      4. bj said,

        “Republicans who are not in support of bigoted behavior keep hoping that Trump is an aberration, and kept hoping, all through the primaries and through the election and through the term of the presidency that other’s who are voting for the Republicans will, are, might come to their senses.”

        “I do not think the approval ratings support that point of view — and, indeed, your statistic above 75% of Republicans are supportive of Trump, which, well, at the very least, does not suggest disapproval.”

        Trump the guy is a narcissist, a lecher, a cry baby and a con artist.

        Trump the president is a bit different, because it’s Trump mediated and filtered by various staff members and constitutional checks and balances–note that the actual official acts of the Trump presidency and many of his prepared speeches are much less stupid than Trump’s tweets or off-the-cuff remarks.

        It’s actually not unreasonable or vicious for Republican voters to be pleased with certain things that Trump has done. The problem with Trump is that the outcomes are so incredibly random–much like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, with Trump you never know what you’re going to get.

        A few more thoughts in defence of Trump voters:

        –People nowadays don’t have a lot of confidence in what they see in the news. They’re used to seeing stories retracted or stories that are clearly slanted, and so there’s a temptation (and this applies to everybody) to assume that stories you like are true and stories you don’t like are false. It’s also very hard to keep up with the news nowadays because it’s SO confusing.

        –Also, remember that thing about how false stories are shared more?

        https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2018/03/12/592885660/can-you-believe-it-on-twitter-false-stories-are-shared-more-widely-than-true-one

        It’s never been more challenging in our lifetimes to be a news consumer.

        –a small but significant minority of Trump voters voted for Obama

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obama-Trump_voters

        “A study by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group found that 9.2% of Obama voters voted for Trump in 2016. According to the American National Election Study, 13% of Trump voters had voted for Obama in 2012. These voters had a disproportionately large impact on the 2016 election because they were concentrated in key swing states in the Midwest. A May 2017 analysis by Global Strategy Group estimated that Obama-Trump voters accounted for more than two-thirds of Clinton’s loss.”

        –For whatever reason, Trump did better with minorities than Mitt Romney.

        https://www.forbes.com/sites/aviksaroy/2016/11/19/man-bites-dog-trump-did-better-with-minorities-than-mitt-romney-did-in-2012/#42743cc035fd

        “But, remarkably, Donald Trump captured slightly more of the minority vote share than Romney did. To be sure, by “slightly more” I mean “slightly less disastrously.” Trump captured 8 percent of the black vote, 29 percent of the Latino vote, and 29 percent of the Asian vote.”

        “A big part of the story is that Hillary Clinton did much worse among minorities than Obama did. Not only was her share of the minority vote worse than Obama’s, but minorities turned out less for her than they had for him.

        “For example, in Michigan, Hillary Clinton received 50,000 fewer votes in Detroit’s Wayne County than President Obama had in 2012. Trump’s margin of victory in Michigan over Clinton was about 11,000.”

        –Obama was president for almost 8 years before the 2016 election. We have not given a third presidential term in a row to the same party since Reagan’s two terms followed by GHWB’s win in 1988. The current rhythm of our presidential politics is two terms per party. Clinton (D) got two terms, GWB (R) got two terms and then Obama (D) got two terms. Trump’s election fits into that pattern–you don’t need any special explanation (racism, sexism, homophobia, blah blah blah) for why the Republican would win after two terms of Democratic rule. In a two-party system, one party is not going to win every single time.

  6. I don’t think this fits into HRC’s divisions, but there’s also a category of people who sees voting Republican as simply self-defense, and essential for their survival–you stick with your tribe as a survival tactic, because there’s safety in numbers, and if some of the people in your tribe are unsavory, that’s all the better, because unsavory people can be counted on to fight harder.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/09/an-attack-on-founding-principles-at-the-claremont-institute/499094/

    When you see all the examples of people who have been fired, boycotted, sued or subjected to mass social media harassment for political or religious views (or even just social faux pas), it doesn’t seem that crazy.

    I don’t like the self-defense uber alles view (and I have informed more than one alt-right person online that “your war is not my my war–and you can’t make me fight for you” more or less in exactly those words), but part of the way out of the situation is chilling the heck out, treating people as individuals, refusing to participate in mass shamings (especially of private individuals), refusing to try to get people fired for matters of opinion, not attempting to enforce lifelong penalties for stupid stuff people did online as teens or young adults (I’m personally thrilled to bits that as far as the internet knows, I did nothing stupid from 1975-1998), letting online stuff stay online rather than hunting down and punishing the perpetrator in real life, being open to the possibility that people you disagree with can change and grow in positive ways–even if that doesn’t lead to them becoming your clone, etc, etc.

    Obviously, there are horrid examples left and right of offences against all of these principles–but that’s all the more reason to set a good example, because not setting a good example fuels tit-for-tat, and a lot of these negative behaviors are driven by fear, and if you remove the fear from the equation, there will be a lot less bad behavior.

    As the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy advises, Don’t Panic!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phrases_from_The_Hitchhiker%27s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy

    1. I’ll quote myself here:

      “I don’t think this fits into HRC’s divisions, but there’s also a category of people who sees voting Republican as simply self-defense, and essential for their survival–you stick with your tribe as a survival tactic, because there’s safety in numbers, and if some of the people in your tribe are unsavory, that’s all the better, because unsavory people can be counted on to fight harder.”

      If anybody thinks that this is a purely right impulse, consider the Women’s March’s leadership’s relationship with Louis Farrakhan.

      https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/03/womens-march/555122/

      “A year ago, the Women’s March punctuated Trump’s inauguration with what was likely the largest single-day mass demonstration in American history. Today, it finds itself embroiled in an unexpected controversy after the initial refusal of several of its leaders to distance themselves from one of America’s leading anti-Semites, the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan.”

      “It all came to a head last week, after Farrakhan delivered his address to the annual Nation of Islam gathering for Saviours’ Day, the sect’s three-day holiday honoring its founder, Wallace Fard Muhammad. Farrakhan denounced “Satanic Jews,” said that “when you want something in this world, the Jew holds the door,” and at the climax of his speech, proclaimed, “White folks are going down, and Satan is going down, and Farrakhan by God’s grace has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew—and I’m here to say, your time is up.”

      You might think that not being political BFFs with a guy who says this stuff would be a no-brainer, but apparently not. When a guy is YOUR ally and could help YOU win politically and get what YOU want, it’s totally different than when the other side cozies up to unsavory or hateful people…

      Consider also the 1990s and Bill Clinton. His political allies backed him because he gave them what they wanted and they’d accept any level of misbehavior to keep the good times rolling (hence that famous remark from a Democratic woman about how she’d personally offer WJC oral sex to save legal abortion).

      In the 1990s, feminist principles got dumped by the truck load with regard to sexual harassment, power differentials, believing women, etc., etc. It’s only been since #MeToo that liberals have looked around and thought about what they did for Bill Clinton back in the 1990s or started asking themselves if it was worth it.

      Embracing unsavory allies is a universal impulse, and let’s not kid ourselves that only one party does it.

      1. What I absolutely hate about this idea of “tribes” is it vacates any sense of values and principles from the picture. You’re team Red or team Blue, as though they’re sports teams. The thing about sports teams is they’re roughly morally neutral and the choice is a matter of personal preference.

        On the other hand, when it comes to politics and policy, I don’t have a “tribe,” I have a set of values. I don’t have an allegiance to a party except insofar as it represents my values. My allegiance is, above all, to my value system. I don’t dislike Donal Trump because he’s a Republican, or because he’s tacky, but because he’s a criminal racist misogynist bully who believes the purpose of government is to be looted by himself and his friends. That goes against my value system. I believe in Rule of Law, I believe in transparency in government, I believe in gender and racial equality. If Hilary Clinton had the same values as Trump, I’d think exactly the same thing about her as I do him.

        The extent to which “tribalism” exists is also asymmetrical. People who consider themselves leaders on moral issues (i.e. leaders in the Christian Right, etc.) think it’s completely fine tell people to vote for men who rape their wives, cheat on them, trade them in for the newest model, sexually assault 14 year old girls, and force porn stars to have abortions, as long as the candidate has an R next to their name. That’s patently against their stated values. Congressional leaders who state they believe in small government and no spending and no debt vote to balloon the debt and pour billions into boondoggle projects like a unnecessary wall as long as a Republican president wants it. I’m not saying there’s no hypocrisy on the left, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anything remotely resembling the level of systematic hypocrisy among either Democratic congressional leaders (who tend to vote they way they say they will) or Left wing political advocacy organizations like MoveOn.

      2. AmyP: “Embracing unsavory allies is a universal impulse, and let’s not kid ourselves that only one party does it.”
        I can’t think of anyone the Dems could have nominated instead of Hillary who would not have been less vulnerable than she to the hypocrisy miasma. From the group of Bill’s rape victims who Donald Trump brought to the debate to the foreign donors to the Clinton Foundation to her remarkable success with futures way back when Bill was governor – her career has been one ethical pustule after another. Reading the quotes in the review of Chozick’s book about the sexism tolerated in her campaign suggests that Hillary has learned nothing.
        I personally voted Johnson-Weld because I couldn’t stand either The Donald or Hillary. Everything I saw before the election suggested that she was on track to be a dreadful President, and nothing I’ve seen since suggests that I was wrong. I think The Donald is dreadful-er, but, well, both parties failed us badly in the nomination process.
        I do think some form of ranked choice voting would have spared us The Donald on the Reep side. Might have encouraged more candidates in the Dems, too. I had a lot of friends who were very discouraged about Her Inevitability, some of whom worked hard for Sanders, who I saw as likely to be even less fit for the job than Herself.

      3. I remain mystified by why Republicans are still talking about Hillary Clinton (or, frankly, Barack Obama). Talk about Pelosi, or Sanders, or Warren. But Hillary is irrelevant unless she runs again.

      4. B.I.,

        “The extent to which “tribalism” exists is also asymmetrical. People who consider themselves leaders on moral issues (i.e. leaders in the Christian Right, etc.) think it’s completely fine tell people to vote for men who rape their wives, cheat on them, trade them in for the newest model, sexually assault 14 year old girls, and force porn stars to have abortions, as long as the candidate has an R next to their name. That’s patently against their stated values. Congressional leaders who state they believe in small government and no spending and no debt vote to balloon the debt and pour billions into boondoggle projects like a unnecessary wall as long as a Republican president wants it. I’m not saying there’s no hypocrisy on the left, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anything remotely resembling the level of systematic hypocrisy among either Democratic congressional leaders (who tend to vote they way they say they will) or Left wing political advocacy organizations like MoveOn.”

        The other guy’s hypocrisy is always much easier to identify.

        I’m irritated about everything you mention, but it’s not hard to come up with the counter list:

        –Hollywood liberals who talk about women’s rights and sexually harass and rape women and/or cover up for and enable people who do the same
        –Democratic icons who sexually harass and assault women (and in at least one well-known case, leave a woman to die and then serve 40 years in the Senate)

        https://www.gq.com/story/kennedy-ted-senator-profile

        –Women’s rights advocates who turn a blind eye to sexual harassment and sexual assault accusations against “their” guys (remember “one free grope”?)
        –Media liberals who talk about women’s rights and sexually harass and rape women and cover up for Hollywood liberals who talk about women’s rights and sexually harass and rape women and Democratic politicians who sexually harass and assault women. (In case we’ve forgotten already–#MeToo was largely an intra-left affair.)
        –Railing against corporations while cashing their checks, sitting on their boards, and sending kids to work for them.
        –Railing against corporate welfare…while voting for corporate welfare. (Case in point–the auto bailout or various solar energy shenanigans.)
        –Being anti-Trump after going to his wedding(s), taking his checks, and playing endless rounds of golf with him (I can only imagine what Trump/WJC golf conversation sounded like.)

        https://ballotpedia.org/History_of_Donald_Trump%27s_political_donations

        “Donald Trump donated $175,860 more to Democrats than Republicans from 1989 to 2010, but in 2011 his giving to Democrats significantly decreased. From 2011 to 2015, Republicans received $630,150 in donations from Trump, while Democrats received just $8,500.”

        Trump has in the past donated (modestly) to the following Democrats:
        Charlie Rangel, Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid (I believe they have casinos in Nevada), John Kerry, Anthony Weiner and Joe Biden.

  7. I remain mystified why people think it is a good idea create a stereotype for white, male, Christians that involves being fearful, needy, entirely self-interested, and whiny. I will continue to have as little to do with that as possible.

    1. It’s similar to the idea that if you hate neo-Nazis, you hate working class white people. It’s really mind boggling.

  8. I apologize for being extra salty in this comment thread, but there are a bunch of narratives that I simply will not concede on. I feel (not necessarily this blog post, but how we talk about tradespeople in general) that there’s a “no true Scotsman” element going on here.

    Where I am currently contractors and skilled tradespeople are as likely to be black as they are white, but they don’t count as working class because they’re not white.
    Next of course, you need to be the right type of white. My best friend’s father (who is basically my dad) is a carpenter and contractor, but he’s Jewish so he doesn’t count.
    My grandfather was also a carpenter and contractor, and he’s an immigrant, which could rule him out, except luckily he’s from a Trump-approved country, so he’s OK in that regard. Of course, his politics make him a Socialist by US-standards, so again he doesn’t count.
    Finally, we get to my step-father, who’s a carpenter and contractor who at last has the right politics. He’s a Fox-News-listening, Hilary-hating, football-loving conservative. Oh, except he hates Trump, hates neo-Nazis, and does all the dishes. He’s an immigrant (from a Very White country), and somehow thinks other immigrants from brown places are just as hard working and deserving to be in the country as he is. So again, he doesn’t count.

    Once we rule out all the non-white, non-conservative, non-immigrant hating, non-misogynist, non-white supremacists from the definition of “working class,” of course the people remaining are going to fit those categories. They’re also not necessarily going to be representative of what, sociologically speaking, we’d define as “working class” or “skilled tradespeople.”

  9. Well, if Laura is actually trying to persuade Rich the Contractor to change his mind, or even to have a civil exchange of views with him in order to enhance her understanding, I recommend she not invite most of the commenters to participate.

    1. I don’t think she even said what his mind was, in terms of Trump or not. Dave pulled it out of his ass, like a tapeworm.

    2. Is Laura trying to convince him of anything? I think she’s just listening and trying to understand. But, it’s true, I have no interest in talking to a Trump-voting Dave unless he has given up on Trump, who is not working in Dave’s interest.

  10. I find it strange that people who condemn Trump speak approvingly of FDR. He put more than 100,000 people in camps. He was no hero, he was a monster. I guess some people are just willing to forgive that in the same way that they willingly align with Farrakhan.

    1. Is that like a bullet point the Russians issue for sending out? Make liberals give up on Social Security or admit that racism is O.K.?

      1. I don’t support Trump. I just think FDR (and Wilson) are also pieces of shit. Social security would be a better program if it wasn’t so racist. Talk about disparate impact! But that goes against your team, doesn’t it, so we can’t talk about it.

      2. My team actually exists as a functioning political organization. The part of the Republican Party that isn’t Trump does not function. It can’t win a primary and is demonstrably unwilling to do anything to block Trump. Therefore supporting Republicans is supporting Trump. This is happening now and we are not talking about somebody who has been dead for close to 75 years.

        I do not think the Republican Party can form a coalition around any type of positive action that isn’t white nationalism. There’s been 15 months to show this and, if you look at the budget showdowns when Obama was president, you’ve got several years of evidence. Republicans have responded to this by increasing attacks of liberals. If anybody were stupid enough to agree to a debate where liberals had to defend everything done by anybody liberal in the past century and conservatives get to define conservatism and the Republican Party as it exists inside their head ignoring what is actually happening in the world, liberals would lose. I don’t see what that gets you, but if it makes you feel better, go for it.

      3. I’m also not a republican. Do you feel better now that you’ve swooped in and white knighted?

    2. If you’re going to go that way, you should have really gone with FDR’s willingness to allow segregation and buy off southern white-supremacists to get power.

    3. I try to speak glowingly (or not) of things politicians have done, and not on them as people. Trump has done no good and says and enacts racist, bigoted, petty, and mean policies. Ultimately some will be judged on the weight of the good they’ve done even while we recognize that they did not reach perfection. Trump does not fit in that category.

      Those of you who do not think that Trump and his actions are an existential threat to the American way let’s hear some ideas about what to *do* for engagement? As I’ve made clear, I do not believe that those who continue to support Trump have any role in my life as far as I can avoid them. My plan forward is to convince everyone who is not in that camp that they cannot vote for Republicans at any level of the government, that they only way forward is to crush Trump’s party wherever we can and move forward from there.

      1. And, crushing Trump’s party is necessary in spite of the recognition that in politics there is no perfect alternative and never will be. In the end, we all vote for coalitions in which we disagree with some of what they do. I cite the African-American women in Alabama, many of whom had to decide between Moore and Jones and chose, to almost a person, that they could support the pro-choice, pro-marriage equality candidate, over the bigot. And progressives Democrats will have to vote for Lamb, with whom they disagree on many issues.

      2. I don’t think he is an existential threat to the US. The U.S. survived Jackson, Bush, it has survived Wilson and FDR – and both really did change the US in profound ways. Not all of them for the better. I don’t see Trump as something particularly new, shitty or dangerous compared to some of our past presidents.

      3. My point is the FDR certainly enacted racist, bigoted, petty and mean policies. Have you seen WWII propaganda? So, Trump isn’t something new. The way you write, you seem to think we must do something immediately, drastically, because he is so bad that drastic is justified. I disagree, and I don’t owe you ideas about what to do. I don’t think it is a crisis in the way you do.

      4. The return of open racist propaganda from the White House is new within the frame of my lifetime. I view “We’re slipping back to WWII-era standards on racism” as a disaster requiring immediate action. I view any back-sliding against the gains of the Civil Right era as a disaster.

      5. FDR was, depending on the issue, about as or slightly less racist than the average person of his times, which was still fairly racist. That said, during WW2 the administration hired top anthropologists to undertake a public education program educating Americans in racial equality and explaining why and how scientific racism was wrong in easily accessible book and cartoon format. This is in a atmosphere when the anthro departments of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale were not willing to publicly denounce Nazi racial ideology and reputable anthropology US-published textbooks still had sections labeled “the superiority of the Aryan race.” FDR was (I believe) personally antisemitic and could have done much more to accept Jewish refugees from Europe. At the same he was also willing to hire Jewish emigres such as Franz Boas to educate people on racial equality, including the equality of Jews, Asians, and Africans. FDR authorized Japanese internment camps, something which was clearly a human and civil rights abuse. Yet in contrast to almost every military undertaking since, some of the first people he brought in to rebuild Japan were anthropologists trained in studying Japanese culture, such that American occupation could work with the Japanese people in a culturally sensitive way. This project was successful to the point that it lay the foundation for a strong relationship of friendship and goodwill between the two countries for over the past half century. Compare and contrast that with the Bush administration not knowing the difference between Sunni and Shiite Islam.

        It’s fine to dislike FDR and hold the internment camps against him, but it’s really not fine to equate FDR not wholly rising above the racism of his time to Trump, who is actively attempting to normalize multiple strands of white supremacy that have never all been dominant or active in the US at once. Trump is not only placing American anti-black racism at the center of his administration, he’s fomenting xenophobia to a level usually not seen outside of the European Right and he’s Making Antisemitism Great Again to a level rarely seen outside a Russian neo-Nazi chat board.

      6. I’ve lived in this country for a long time, and through the Reagon and Bush presidencies, which I detested. I have never felt unsafe before. I know the fortune that describes, of wealth and education.

        To draw a FDR parallel, trump has done the equivalent of the following — a random sheriff in Yolo county rounds up people who look Japanese and the court rules that he must stop. The sheriff is pardoned by FDR.

        And though I will remember the silence of the bystanders, my plan is to use whatever powers I have to crush trumps part and his allies wherever I can not to wait for suggestions by those who feel unaffected.

  11. I remember when liberals (e.g., Bruce Ackerman, Benjamin Barber) used to insist that discussion was a sine qua non for a truly democratic society. The lights are going out all over America.

  12. We are at the brink of a moment in which we are making moral decisions about the future of the country. I am seeing parallels to the period after the assassination of Lincoln, when Hayes & Harrison won the election without winning the national vote. The Hayes election, in particular was resolved in a way that set the nation up for a cementing of the evils of slavery for decades to follow. I feel a need to fight strenuously against choices that might lead us in similar directions.

    1. I’m worried about that but also the potential for normalizing massive amounts of corruption if something doesn’t happen soon.

  13. I think maybe Tulip and I are on the same page. I mostly see Trump as a narcissistic buffoon. While he tweets moronically, his administration mostly does standard Republican things, like tax cuts and deregulation, which you may or may not approve of, but which hardly threaten the fabric of liberal democracy. There has been a slight shift, in that Republicans used to favor reining in entitlements and continuing high levels of immigration, but again, no resolution of those issues achieved through the democratic process will threaten our way of life. The breakdown of civility in our public discourse, and the wave of censorship and violence on our university campuses, are much bigger threats.

    1. I agree that Trump is now a standard-issue Republican. I also agree that a resolution of immigration issues by the democratic process wouldn’t be a threat to our way of life. Why don’t the Republicans try that since they control Congress and White House? Because having the president shout racist things, proposing a religious test for immigration, and letting the ICE break the law are what is actually happening and are a threat to our way of life.

      Continuing shouting about “the new wave of censorship and violence on our universities campus” while ignoring what is actually happening in the America is why civility is breaking down.

  14. I was talking with the contractor not because I wanted to understand “the trump voter” or because I wanted to convince him to change his mind about politics. I talked to the contractor because there was another human being in the house with me for two months and being social is a nice thing. We also talked about insomnia, cabinet pulls, real estate, college kids, and weddings. So, whatever.

    Do y’all want to see pictures of the new kitchen?

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